The production of ready-to-eat meat alternatives is currently on the rise, due to societal lifestyle trends, including flexitarianism, vegetarianism, and veganism. They usually consist of either processed meat substitutes that have been derived from plants or edible insects, depending on the market niche. Since the market relevance of such products has only recently become of importance, little is known about their associated microbial communities. The latter are nevertheless important because of their potential role in spoilage and food safety. In this study, several ready-to-eat meat alternatives in the Belgian market were analysed (including 8 vegetarian and 6 vegan imitations of meat products as well as one insect sample). Bacterial counts were relatively low compared to meat products, ranging from <2.0 to 8.7 log cfu g−1, with differences between the various products. The bacterial load on the edible insect sample was generally higher than those on vegan and vegetarian products. In total, 426 isolates were collected from different selective agar media and classified and identified using (GTG)5-PCR fingerprinting, followed by gene sequencing. Isolates retrieved from the vegetarian products consisted mostly of Lactobacillus sakei. The majority of the isolates originating from the vegan products also belonged to the species Lb. sakei, Enterococcus faecium, and Carnobacterium divergens, whereas the insect product mainly contained E. faecium, besides the presence of Macrococcus caseolyticus and Cronobacter sakazakii. The occasional presence of relatively high levels of enterococci merits attention in view of food safety.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100681
Number of pages7
JournalFood Bioscience
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Insects
  • Meat alternatives
  • Lactic acid bacteria
  • Microbiota

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